The truth about the AV system

The referendum on a change in the voting system has got quite unpleasant.

The Yes campaign, which says AV is about a fairer system and not party politics, claim that many statements made by the No campaign are ‘lies, misinformation and deceit’.

I would like your readers to consider the following:

1 This change is ALL about party politics because we currently have a three-party system in which Lib Dems believe they are unfairly treated and AV will redress this by giving them many more seats and they will then have a greater say in the way the government runs the country.

2 An assessment of the 2010 Election results by the Electoral Reform Society shows this AV system giving the Lib Dems 22 more seats to a total of 79 seats with the Tories falling to 281 and Labour up by four to 262. This is not as big a change as AV supporters suggest.

3 The Yes campaign claim that AV will not result in more coalition/ minority governments. As AV is intended to give more seats to the third party and other smaller parties there will be more coalitions where the Lib Dems expect to dictate terms. This was confirmed when Vince Cable said that AV will see an end to right wing governments and will ensure the country is for ever run under left wing socialism.

4 The AV experience in Scotland shows that in only four of the 32 AV elections did AV give a different result to the first past the post method. So the result under AV would see little change. The existing system serves us well.

5 Lib Dems say the statement in the No campaign that AV will cost £250m, of which £130m will be spent on electronic counting machines, is a lie by the chancellor and the Tories. AV can be counted without electronic machines but they need to be used to reduce spoilt ballot papers, improve the accuracy and the timeliness of counting each round of the vote and to provide good reliable figures on how votes were cast.

6 Even without counting machines the cost of £250m will be incurred with AV as more polling booths will be required and many more counters and scrutineers will be needed to accurately conduct the many stages of each count. The counts will take much longer.

7 It is claimed voters want to express preferences but from the Scottish AV elections, it is shown that between 33 per cent to 50 per cent of those voting have not given a second preference vote. So if this many do not want a second vote, why are we changing?

8 Having accused the Tories of lying, I am surprised Nick Clegg has made the following claims about AV as they are not true: no more safe seats, no more expenses scandals, no more need for tactical voting, it is simple if you can count to three, MPs will have to work harder, this AV is one of the most widely used voting systems in Britain today, MPs will be more accountable, power will move into the hands of the people and AV requires MPs to get the votes of at least half the people in their constituency.

9 This statement on the 50 per cent-plus requirement is a serious lie. With only 66 per cent of people in constituencies voting in 2010, it means the MP would need to get 75 per cent-plus of those who did vote. Even if he meant to say no MP will be elected without getting at least 50 per cent of those who did vote, that is also a lie as all the evidence is many voters will register only the first preference. If 33 per cent of the original voters cease to register a second or third preference, an MP could be elected with just 34 per cent of the original first votes. So the result is the same as under the present system – which LibDems object to.

10 With candidates expected to work harder visiting more homes, party HQs will need to provide them with the information of who they will join in coalition and which policies they will keep. It will also be essential, under AV, that every party that has a candidate is treated equally and given equal TV and airtime – so an end to the three-party debates of 2010.

11 A significant failing of this AV system is the problem of all voters no longer being treated equally. While many will have their various preferences votes counted, others will be denied that right. It becomes most significant when the candidate who comes in second at the end has not had their supporters’ other preference votes considered. This is not a fairer system.

What is most important on Thursday, May 5 is that everyone does go out and vote on this referendum. Failure to vote is to the benefit of those who want the change to AV. If you don’t feel a need for change then you must vote No – do not abstain.

Mike Elliott